Polka dot plants (Begonia maculata) are one of the most striking and beautiful indoor houseplants, which also makes them look more demanding than they actually are!
That being said, getting their environment right as quickly as possible is the best way to make sure your plant stays in optimum health and lives a long time.
We’ve put together some top tips and tricks for polka dot plant care to make life with your new plant as stress-free as possible.
One of the easiest aspects of polka dot plant care is their minimal light requirements, as they are happy in both bright indirect light and in low light areas.
The ability to live happily in poorly lit areas is a great advantage. Not only can you place them in lovely sunny spots, but you can even decorate the relatively dark corners and brighten up your house. However, like all plants, polka dot plants do need some sunlight. So, make sure that their spot in your home gets some indirect sunlight throughout the day, even if it’s not much.
It’s important to keep your spotted beauty out of direct sunlight especially in the afternoon because you will risk the leaves burning and turning brown.
One of the most important aspects of polka dot plant care is to make sure that you don’t overwater your plant. It’s a careful balance of keeping the soil moist but not too wet because polka dots have very thin roots, which makes them sensitive to overwatering.
The best way to know if your polka dot plant needs watering is to touch the soil and see if it is moist. If it’s still moist, then give it another couple of days and check again. If the soil is dry, you should water it immediately as this is one of their pet peeves.
In the summer, try to check the soil every 4 days. In the winter, check every couple of weeks to make sure these plants don’t get too thirsty. Watering less in the winter will help them avoid developing root rot, which is a common symptom of “killing them with love”!
Temperature and Air
Polka dot plants are at their happiest in warm, humid conditions, so the perfect polka dot plant indoor environment is in rooms like the kitchen or the bathroom.
You shouldn’t let the temperature where your plant is situated drop below 15 degrees, and try to keep the humidity at 40-60 % where possible.
Top polka dot plant care tip: Increasing the humidity of the air surrounding your plant is quite straightforward. Some of the easiest methods include:
- Spraying the leaves of your plant with a water mister
- Grouping your houseplants together, since they omit water droplets during transpiration
- Buying a humidifier
Since polka dot plants love their soil moist, you need to get soil that retains moisture.
Soils you should avoid are any that are extremely fast-draining. Very sandy or stony soil is a no go for these plants as it will dry out too quickly and make polka dot plant care more difficult than it needs to be!
Polka dot plant care top tip: One of the best types of soil for keeping your polka dot plant is a palm soil mix, because it provides some drainage but not too much that the plant will dry out easily.
Fertiliser is key to polka dot plant care, especially if you want your plant to flower because it will need a surplus of nutrients in order to bloom.
Your polka dot plant grows from spring to late summer and then goes into a resting period during the colder months. During the growth period, it’s best to fertilise your polka dot plant every couple of weeks.
In the cooler winter months, fertilise your polka dot plant every 5-6 weeks. This ensures you’re giving your plant enough time to rest and prepare for the next growing season.
Check out the section in our FAQ on top polka dot plant care tips to induce flowering!
Common Questions About Polka Dot Plant Care
Why is my polka dot plant looking spindly?
Usually, the two main reasons for your polka dot plant becoming a bit too leggy are:
- It’s not quite getting as much light as it needs, so stretching up to try and get a bit more
- It is something that can simply happen due to age.
The best solution to this is to prune your plant. This encourages new leaves to grow on the lower parts of the stalks, which will give your plant a bushier look as opposed to spindly!
Why are the leaves on my Begonia maculata turning yellow?
The most likely cause of yellowing leaves is that you’re killing it with kindness by overwatering. If you’re going this, it’s best to give your polka dot plant a bit of a break to dry out.
If you have yellowing leaves, it is probably a good idea to improve the drainage of the pot that your plant is in. An easy way of doing this is to cut one or two holes in the bottom of your plant pot so that the water can drain out. Make sure to drain off excess water whenever you water your plant, too.
Are polka dot plants toxic to pets?
Unfortunately, yes. Polka dot plants are toxic to our four-legged friends! So the only solution to having one of these beauties and pets, is by keeping your plant somewhere that’s completely out of reach. This is of course much more difficult if you have cats because they are avid climbers. Try to keep your plant on a very high shelf that is too narrow for them to jump on.
Alternatively, have a read through our list of pet-friendly houseplants for some inspiration as to what pretty plants you can safely keep in the house with your fur babies.
Why isn’t my Polka Dot Plant flowering?
Although polka dot plants are perfectly happy being kept inside, it is hard to create the perfect polka dot plant indoor environment to the degree required for it to bloom.
If your goal is to convince your plant to flower, you have to get the amount of fertiliser right! After all, we all love a beautiful flowering plant!
It’s best to only fertilise every 5-6 weeks or completely avoid fertilising in the winter because over-fertilising can actually stunt plant growth.
In spring through to autumn it’s best to use a balanced houseplant fertiliser so something like 20-20-20. You should then mix it at half strength for polka dot plants, and apply it every couple of weeks.
Another polka dot plant care top tip: use a spray bottle to apply some of your fertiliser to the foliage. This will make the colour of your polka dot plant leaves more vibrant.
And that’s a wrap!
Hopefully now you feel confident that you and your polka dot plant are ready to live your best lives together.
Polka dot plant care can require a bit of trial and error to nail the environmental conditions in your home. Your plant will forgive you if you don’t get it perfect straight away though, just keep a close eye on her at first to make sure she’s happy!